Even if you aren’t religiously inclined, if you care at all about the sorry state of rap music you should say a short ( or even really long) prayer of thanks to the hip-hop Gods for the new Common album Nobody’s Smiling. It’s fitting that he’s reached the very impressive milestone of a 10th album with such an ill piece of work.
It’s also very fitting that your boy has continued to have his longtime boy and fellow Chicago-rilla No ID, who, as well as his earliest work, produced 2011’s The Dreamer, The Believer, ( good but not as good as Nobody’s Smiling) sit behind the boards for the whole set.
It shouldn’t be such a big deal, but it’s very refreshing to hear a mainstream rapper on a major label release an album that deals with the numerous socio-economic problems in the hood with an intelligent forward thinking approach that doesn’t sugarcoat the realness. In an era when so many rappers are more than happy to do whatever foolishment the industry requires of them to be successful, it’s kinda like a big deal. The excessive violence in the windy city definitely isn’t a joke.
Common is undoubtedly one the game’s finest, and is one of the few rappers to have released quality hip-hop from the golden age of the early nineties until now. As he spits on No Fear: ‘Many reign but the game never weathered me.’ Even Common’s less well received albums ( Electric Circus, Universal Mind Control) were the result of genuine artistic leanings rather than anything his A&R or manager told him to do.
The best tune on the album is probably Kingdom, but it might also be Rewind That. The former has a shuffling beat and a chorus whose harmonies sound like something slaves on the underground railroad would be singing; the latter sees Common apologise to No I.D for his bad mind ways during the Like Water For Chocolate era before reminiscing on many of the things that made the late J Dilla great.
Harold ‘Noonie G’ Ward, a former member of the Gangster Disciples, and an advocate for peace in Chicago, recently called for artists and athletes to do or say something about the ridiculous levels of violence in the Chi. Nobody’s Smiling is one of the important statements about the situation so far.